The Difference Between Clenching Teeth And Grinding Teeth: What You Need To Know

by Support Remi September 07, 2022 4 min read

The Difference Between Clenching Teeth And Grinding Teeth: What You Need To Know | Remi

The Difference Between Clenching Teeth And Grinding Teeth: What You Need To Know

During the course of the day, or even in the evening, you might notice that you grind or clench your teeth. About one-third of adults regularly clench or grind their teeth during the day, and more than one in 10 experience it while asleep. If you grind your jaw throughout the day or awake with teeth that are sensitive and have jaw pain, or a headache, you may suffer from bruxism. To better know what bruxism means and what it is, we'll provide you with more details about the things you should learn about bruxism, as well as the differences between grinding your teeth and clenching your teeth so that you can discern if you or someone in your family is suffering from it.

What Is Bruxism?

Bruxism is a medical and dental issue in which you involuntary and unconsciously clench, grind, or gnash your teeth while not chewing. Bruxism frequently happens when you’re sleeping and when you’re awake. People with bruxism are frequently unaware that they are clenching or grinding their teeth. It’s usually only once pain or discomfort develops that they notice bruxism.

Most people occasionally grind or clench their teeth; therefore, mild bruxism may not even need treatment. While occasional teeth grinding normally has no negative effects, frequent teeth grinding can destroy teeth and worsen other dental health problems. Bruxism can be chronic and severe enough in certain people to cause jaw disorders, migraines, broken teeth, and other issues.

Difference Between Teeth Grinding and Clenching in Bruxism

The Difference Between Clenching Teeth And Grinding Teeth: What You Need To Know

Bruxism is characterized by grinding teeth and clenching. Teeth grinding occurs when someone makes the chewing motion where the mouth isn't fully open, causing teeth to be pushed against one another each time the individual is not conscious of the action by moving their teeth forward and back.

Clenching happens when someone who suffers from bruxism unconsciously retains their teeth and clenches their mouth muscles using significant force. The teeth don't grind; instead, they press into each other with a lot of force. People who suffer from bruxism grind their teeth or bite throughout the day or at night while sleeping. Due to this, two kinds of bruxism are present.

Types of Bruxism

There are two different types of bruxism, which can affect anyone. Knowing these types of bruxism can help you understand its effects and how it can harm you. Moreover, it helps in identifying the best way to deal with them.

Types of Bruxism

Here are the two types of bruxism:

  • Sleep Bruxism: Sleep bruxism is the most common teeth grinding condition that occurs at night while you’re asleep. It often goes unnoticed, especially if you have minor night bruxism. However, excessive teeth grinding or clenching can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night. If you suffer from night bruxism and are sleeping next to someone, they can tell that you’re grinding or clenching your teeth.
  • Awake Bruxism: Awake bruxism involves involuntarily clenching or grinding your teeth while awake during the day. Awake bruxism is frequently caused by emotions like anxiety, stress, anger, frustration, or tension. Even when you are conscious and awake, bruxism usually goes unnoticed. It is often a coping mechanism or a habit that you have developed when in a state of intense concentration — without knowing it.

Signs and Symptoms

Here are some common symptoms and signs of bruxism so you can better evaluate if you or someone you know is experiencing the condition:

  • Teeth clenching or grinding loud enough to wake yourself or your sleeping partner
  • Loose teeth, chipped, cracked, or flattened
  • Broken or loose fillings
  • Worn-down enamel that exposes the lower layers of your teeth
  • Increased sensitivity or pain in the teeth
  • Jaw muscles that are fatigued or tight
  • A locked jaw
  • Pain or soreness in the jaw, neck, or face
  • Pain in the ear even without ear problems
  • Dull headache, particularly in the temple area
  • Facial pain, particularly in the cheekbone area
  • Wounds or damage inside of the cheeks

Common Causes of Bruxism

There are numerous reasons why people unconsciously grind and clench their teeth. While it might be challenging to identify the specific cause, the following are some typical factors or causes associated with bruxism:

  • Stress: Teeth grinding and stress are often related. Stress is described as a physical, physiological, or emotional condition that results in tension in the body or mind and triggers a response from the body to make the person feel better. Stress causes our bodies to respond, and teeth grinding or clenching are the most common reactions.
  • Caffeine, alcohol, and smoking:these habits may impact the signals your brain transmits to your muscles. People who smoke, drink alcohol, and regularly consume too much coffee can be more likely to have bruxism.
  • Medication: Some medications have adverse effects that cause teeth grinding or clenching when the body reacts to the medication. The common medications that cause bruxism are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and antidepressants.
Prescription Drugs and Bruxism

How To Address Bruxism

Bruxism can disappear on its own, especially if the triggers that caused it, such as stress or abuse vices, are eliminated. Mouth night guards, also called teeth-grinding mouth guards by many, are another useful method. A custom-made mouth night guard creates a barrier between your upper and lower teeth to prevent future tooth damage from unconscious clenching or grinding.

Ana has worked for the past two years at Remi. She is a California-native and proud San Franciscan. Ana Milian RDA Head Dental Technician

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